Polar bear killer hailed as a hero

The man who shot the polar bear that killed a schoolboy and savaged four others in Norway has been hailed as a hero.

Adventurer Michael 'Spike' Reid, 29, was one of two leaders of the expedition which came under attack.

Horatio Chapple, 17, an aspiring medical student, was killed and four others were injured by the bear yesterday morning.

The group was on a British Schools Exploring Society (BSES) expedition to the Arctic.

Mr Reid, from Plymouth in Devon, suffered serious head and neck injuries when he was mauled by the animal.

He is reported to be in a serious, but stable, condition after being airlifted to a hospital in the Norwegian town of Tromso.

His family said they were told by British Embassy officials that it is believed he shot the animal.

Peter Reid, Michael's father, said: "We got a phone call from the BSES in the morning. We were devastated and very worried.

"We have been told everyone was saying it was Michael who shot the bear and he was a hero. It was very moving.

"A lot of the day, we've been thinking about the family of the boy who died."

The attack on the campsite, near the Von Post glacier, about 25 miles (40km) from Longyearbyen, took place early yesterday.

Mr Reid said the incident had come as a complete shock.

He said: "In all honesty, we were more worried last year when Michael went to Afghanistan to climb.

"This was such a rare and unlikely event, it was inconceivable."

Mr Reid added his son was one of the team leaders responsible for science experiments and had also been involved in training.

He said: "It's what he loves to do. He was so excited to be going when we spoke to him four days ago.

"He was having a terrific time and was really in his element.

"We were shaken by the news, but we have a son alive and under very good medical care in Norway.

"There's a family in Wiltshire who have lost their son. For us, their grief must be unimaginable."

BSES Expeditions said the others injured were fellow team leader Andrew Ruck, 27, believed to be from Aberdeen, and youngsters Patrick Flinders, 16, from Jersey, and Scott Smith, 17, of Cornwall.

The British Embassy in Norway said its priority was to reunite the patients with their families in a hospital in Britain.